The solution to the problems facing our great ponds is so simple that I can hear the slapping of foreheads as I write this — the Martha’s Vineyard Clam Club. Why not? If we’ve got clubs for folks to chase tiny balls and produce nothing better than figures on a scorecard, can’t you imagine a club where folks scour our ponds to produce a tasty meal? The problem is that clamming doesn’t have panache. Well it does, among a select few, but not the right select few. We need a CCC — a Celebrity Clamming Corps. Once we get the fancy dudes and dudettes in the ponds seeking bivalves, the rest will surely follow. They always do.
A clam club offers the amenities of a beach club, yacht club and golf club combined. We’ll have floating restaurants and bars, showers and changing rooms and cunning little watercraft (electric of course) for those who eschew wading. To avoid any semblance of real work — as in golf — caddies will carry the wire basket and shuck the clams. There will be prizes for the most clams or the largest. We’ll seed the ponds once a week to ensure a plentiful harvest (providing support for Island hatcheries). If golf clubs charge half a million per membership, imagine the fee to join a clam club.
Think of the subsidiary markets — carbon fiber rakes, cute little rake covers, bags to carry them. You’ll need a variety of rakes for clamming among eel grass, in sand or muck and titanium baskets with floats of many varieties — no inner tubes will be allowed. And clamming garb, now there’s a market for you — wet suits, dry suits, heated and air-conditioned suits. And think of the après-clamming fashions that will proliferate.
We’ll reserve one or two of the Island Great Ponds for the club’s exclusive use (we have 20, after all). The money that will pour in will allow us to hire scientists to study all the Island ponds and implement their most costly recommendations. Dredging? Sure, once every year. There will be subsidies to upgrade septic systems, funds to addle the eggs of birds that deposit kaka into the ponds and to pay a species offset to the Audubon Society so they can increase the geese, ducks and cormorants in other parts of Massachusetts to balance their loss here on the Island.
Once clam clubs become the next new thing, folks will abandon golf clubs in droves and the land bank can purchase the derelict courses for a dime on the dollar and set the land aside for walking trails. All this will require collaboration among our six towns and be an impetus to county government because, as an example, if Oak Bluffs gives up Segeonkontacket Pond to the club we’ll need access to ponds in other towns. Besides, the clam club will earn enough money to provide for even the most wasteful of county administrations.
Clam Clubs, my friends, is an idea whose time has arrived.
Sam Low is a filmmaker and writer, a permanent resident of Oak Bluffs and a frequent contributor to Gazette editorial pages.